Coronavirus in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon suggests even tougher Scottish lockdown may be needed to ease pressure on NHS

Nicola Sturgeon has ordered Scots employers to "review their operations" – and warned a further lockdown of non-essential business may be needed to ease growing pressure on the NHS.

A coronavirus advice sign on North Bridge in Edinburgh
A coronavirus advice sign on North Bridge in Edinburgh

Food and drink takeaways, click and collect services, manufacturing and construction firms were yesterday served notice that unless their work is essential, they should consider closing down or have staff work from home.

And the First Minister made it clear that she is ready to make "tough decisions" and introduce a legal shutdown if firms don't act responsibly.

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A further 78 deaths from Covid were recorded in Scotland on Thursday, up 10 on the previous day.

Nicola Sturgeon at Thursday's briefing

The number of people in hospital in Scotland with the virus rose to 1,467, according to the latest figures on Thursday, approaching the the peak of the first wave last Spring. There are 100 people of people in intensive care, although this is half the figure it was in April as the treatment of Scots who contract the virus improves. The number of positive tests also soared by more than 600 to 2649 – 11.3% of those tested.

Some activities which were halted in March have been allowed to continue, such as professional sport and some construction and manufacturing work. Takeaway drinks and fast food outlets have so far remained open, while some shops have continued to trade on a click and collect basis.

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Nicola Sturgeon warns further shops and businesses could close in Scotland under...

But Ms Sturgeon warned bosses a rethink was needed during today’s daily Coronavirus briefing.

"All employers should be reviewing their operations to allow as many people to work from home as possible," Ms Sturgeon said.

"In particular they should only be asking people to come into work if it is for work that cannot possibly be done at home and if it is for work that is genuinely essential.

"That applies to takeaway businesses and non-essential shops providing click and collect services. If you can provide delivery services instead you should do that and reduce the need for people to leave their home and it will help all of us to fight this virus more effectively.

"For this lockdown to be as effective as we need it to be, we must radically reduce the number of interactions we are having that means reducing a minimum the reasons people are required to leave their homes."

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Days after mainland Scotland entered its second national lockdown, the First Minister warned stricter measures could still be needed to combat the faster spreading strain of Covid-19.

"If we need to require more non-essential activities to close in order to achieve this, we will have to do that. That is a matter of ongoing review by the Scottish Government right now."

She added: "At this stage people need to prioritise limiting the spread of this virus, and if we think as a Government that we need to go further in terms of the regulations and the legal restrictions, we will do that, because we have to cut interactions sufficiently to stop this virus spreading.

"If it takes more tough decisions... then that is what I will do.

"Because we see from case numbers, death numbers, pressure on our health service that we can not allow this virus to run away from us, the consequences of that are just too great."

With hospital numbers rising again during winter - traditionally the busiest time of the year for the health service - Ms Sturgeon described the NHS as being “under severe and increasing pressure."

She added: "The health service is extremely busy and of course that last few days, we've also had very icy weather so accident and emergency departments will be coping with falls and slips as well.

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"So we really can't emphasis enough the pressure that is on the health service and the role that all of us need to play to try to help alleviate that."

"Across the country the health service is under pressure and those working at the frontline are under significant pressure."

The First Minister warned every Scot who gets infected with the virus may need hospital care in future.

She added: "The more all of us stay at home and reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread, the more all of us help the NHS cope.

"Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. That is now just as important as it was last March and I ask everybody to take it just as seriously as all of us did back then."

The Borders area, along with Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire and the Ayrshire and Arran regions are those under the most acute pressure.

But the First Minister said the NHS was under pressure across the whole country, urging Scots: "It needs all of us to help play our part in helping the heroes that work in it to cope and do the job they are doing in such difficult circumstances."

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Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith also spoke about the impact coronavirus was having on NHS staff.

He said: "I have colleagues right across community and hospital-based care that turn up every day, and I know how hard they are working just now and how tired they are. They have had not just a couple of weeks of hard work behind them, but actually this has been going on for months now.

"When I speak to them I recognise their unease and their anxiety at times about what they are faced with ahead, because there is some uncertainty for them when they turn up at work just how busy they are going to be and just exactly what they are going to be faced with over the day."

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